Home > In the News > Walmart.com to Sell PCs Without OS Walmart.com to Sell PCs Without OS Submitted by Matthias Toth 2002-02-22 In the News 47 Comments Walmart.com is planning to sell PCs without any pre-loaded OS, “to gauge the response among tech-oriented customers who may want to load their own operating systems.” Read about it at CNET. About The Author 47 Comments 2002-02-22 2:30 pm I think the idea behind it is nice, but it wont hit If i would want to buy a pc without an os, that would be becaus ei am somewhat aware of what i’m doing, and surely, i would want to build my own system. Like i said, nice idea. Take Care Kevin 2002-02-22 2:38 pm Are most basketball players NBA stars? Are most swimmers olympic atheletes? The overwhelming majority of computer purchasers, are not technologically oriented. This is why people not only buy computers with pre-installed OS’s, but buy entire packages so all they have to do is plug the pieces in and be done with it. They will sell computers, but in the end it will be a dud project. Not only are they catering to a much smaller audience, but they also have to reduce their profit margin on each unit to draw the customers in. Yet another problem with this idea… 2002-02-22 2:39 pm Unless they have some exceptionally low prices with very good hardware, I’d rather buy it in some local store nearby and select my own hardware. Like Kevin said, it’s nice to see another effort at selling computers without Windows pre-installed, but that will probably not work. 2002-02-22 2:42 pm Since when does Wal-Mart have tech-oriented customers? Down here in the Great Banana Republic of South Florida (aka New Lawn Giland), there’s nary a tech-oriented customer in sight; just those who cannot speak english and of course the native inhabitants (slack jawed redneck hillbilly yokels). The rest of us go to Target (pronounced with a french accent). 2002-02-22 2:53 pm An interesting move but If I wanted a different operating system as they say, I could it do it even if I buy the computer with an OS But why would I want to wipe out a perfectly working OS and install something else? Hmmm I wonder what that other OS I could install. Oh yeah the open source one, hrmmm what’s it called? I can’t remember. Hmmm something like L???X )No, sorry I can’t remember LOL. But I could always give BeOS a try ) Yet another perfectly working OS The only good thing about all this, is if you can save some money from not having Windows installed and other software with the computer. Sorry guys don’t be mad at me just because I forgot how that other OS is called. Oh yeah, I got it. FreeBSD )))) Yeah, the BSD ones, 3 of them, was it? 2002-02-22 2:56 pm Price sells. By not including a windows os walmart can have a lower sale price. This is not targeted at linux users. Buying a pc for your son/daughter? You’ve already got windows 98 discs for your other pc so you can load that onto the competitively priced pc from Walmart. Walmart know how to sell, look to see copycat action from Amazon and anguish from MS and Dell. (Theres a nice piece on this @ theregister.co.uk) 2002-02-22 3:02 pm …I hope it catches on. In particular, notebooks need to come with no preinstalled OS. I can’t believe that that is not an option yet. They are tied to Microsoft so tightly, it’s virtually impossible to have a choice of OS with any of the big names. 2002-02-22 3:30 pm Will Wal-Mart also be offering OS’s to go on that computer, besides, say, ….Windows? (like, say, QNX or Linux… is there anything else viable???) Will they offer software that runs under that OS? Will they pre-install it all for me and make sure it works? These are the questions that come to mind. If the answer to even one of these is “no”, then I can’t see how it would work. Tech-oriented people won’t buy computers from Wal-Mart; for that matter they don’t usually buy computers that cost less than $600. 2002-02-22 3:31 pm There’s a terrible irony here. This can only help Microsoft. “See? Consumers demand Windows on PCs.” 2002-02-22 3:48 pm They have everything to gain and nothing to loose. think about it. 2002-02-22 4:11 pm I think it will not catch on, because of what i said earlier: ppl that want to buy a pc without an os surely know what they are doing, and will be mor prone to build their own systems. But besides all that, i think it could be nice to see what other (bigger) pc manufacterers have to say. Don’t get me wrong, many big companies do sell pc’s wihout osses (well they’re not always “pc’s”), but just to see the reaction. I personally think that there is a chance that it *might* become standardized to sell pc’s without osses as a base and for an extra fee, they could buy the os. This will also certainly cause a stampede of pirate copies being installed on pc’s (not by the regular home user, but by smaller companies). Like i said, should be interesting, just wait and see. Take Care Kevin 2002-02-22 4:12 pm Your idea that Wal-Mart’s intention is that consumers will load their own copy of Windows, I think misses the mark. Micro$oft has been cracking down on piracy of its software, and yes it seems that Micro$oft considers running a single licensed copy of Windows on 2 different computers piracy. I can see Micro$oft trying to approach Wal-Mart about this. I don’t think that Wal-Mart would do something like this, unless their aim was for consumers to load an alternative OS. The last time that I checked, Wally World sold RedHat Linux in its software section, and possibly more choices by now. I don’t intend on this sounding like a flame, just my own opinion on the matter. 2002-02-22 4:18 pm It’s dumb idea. They have something to loose – customers. The only way they can make money on it is if they sell helpdesk service contract with it (and a free phone or prepaid phonecard for 600 minutes) – a 900 number will do the trick. Most people want AOL anyway. 2002-02-22 4:19 pm This project will probably flop, but look out for the clones! I see this as maybe starting a trend. Everyone seems to be attacking M$ from all sides. You name a company, and chances are they are doing something that M$ doesn’t like. 2002-02-22 4:22 pm Walmarts aim is to sell things for a profit. They are offering a pc without an os as it gives them a pricing advantage over the market leaders. They do not care whether, having bought the pc customers then buy a new copy of Linux/Windows, trawl ebay/yahoo for 2nd hand discs or “borrow” an os from cousin Fred. Walmart want to sell a box. What their customers do with that box is none of walmarts concern. Common sense tells us that the most usefull os to load on that box would be some flavour of windows and the experience of software companies the world over is that end users don’t think pirated software is reeeeaalllyyy stealing. I don’t see what influence MS can bring to bear on Walmart to stop them and if they capture significant market share i suspect MS will have trouble holding back Dell et al from following suit. 2002-02-22 4:23 pm What you say there could be true. And btw it didnt sound like a flame at all, i do not mind to be corrected even when i’m right (as long as it is fair), it always makes for learnfull experiences. Anyway, i just want to say, i saw this happening before here in belgium, and the company got shut down for “encouraging software privacy” by “guess who”. Take Care Kevin 2002-02-22 4:24 pm The only problem is that customers will return PCs a week later and inventory will pile up. 2002-02-22 4:38 pm walmart customers dont want to install an OS. i think it would be entertaining simply to watch them try. What might work, is having preexisting configurations which are linux compatible used and having linux installed to the customer’s specs. By that time though, you are in the ranks of the many many independents on the web who by that time would be able to do it more cheaply and more effectively. Most will be inclined to spend a little more to insure they get something even remotely functional. AOL 4.0 to Debian 2.2 is a pretty steep learning curve for Sam Walton’s minions. 2002-02-22 4:42 pm the big question in my mind is will these blank-slaie boxes be hardware compatable with the really good alt.OS’s?wtf good will it be if i buy a cheap blank pc (or reccomend one to my friends) if the damn thing wont run BeOS or QNX or linux or whatever because the grapics card or the soundcard,modem ,etc is incompatable?so it remains to be seen if the damn things will be of any use at all to the alt OS crowd.It would be nice if they did tho, that way when i tell someone how great BeOS is, and they ask me where they can get a computer that will do what mine does i could tell ’em to bebop on down to WallyWorld and pick one of those suckers up and I’ll get ’em hooked up form there! BUT i have my doubts( i see a vision of a blank pc that will only run windoze or some geek-oriented commandline nightmare like FreeBSD9which will run on anything if you are a person that can write an OS yourself LOL),that Joe Blow wouldn’t be able to install because all he want’s to do is surf the net and play mp3’s and some light household computing tasks. so all in all i hope those clowns did thier homework(compatabilty) or this venture is doomed to fail. 2002-02-22 4:46 pm Just sell them P166mmx’s with 32 mb of ram and a n s3 virge and a sb16, everything will run on it (albeit slow:). Disk would be about 1.2 gb. could ask them for an xtra fee to get the ram up to 64 meg … yes, this was a prime example of my ever lasting sarcasm towards naive oems… Take Care Kevin 2002-02-22 4:53 pm >>Tech-oriented people won’t buy computers from Wal-Mart; for that matter they don’t usually buy computers that cost less than $600. While I agree that tech-oriented people would not buy a box from Wal-Mart, I know that I buy cheaper (crappy) hardware because that is what I can afford. But I would spend my $600 or so at a local dealer or at least at Fry’s. 2002-02-22 5:05 pm Think of this scenario: 1. Walmart starts selling these computers with no OS installed. 2. MS freaks out and thinks: If someone already has a computer and wants a simple upgrade, this would be a great choice, because they could take their current Windows CD and reinstall onto the Walmart computer, saving the cost of yet another Windows CD. 3. MS sends their goons to Walmart’s HQ and “has a little talk.” Under the guise of “preventing software piracy,” MS threatens to sue Walmart for “promoting the pirating of its software.” <sarcasm>Because why wouldn’t someone want to use Windows?</sarcasm> 4. Under the threat of a lawsuit, Walmart announces that their computers will no longer come without an OS and will include Windows. 5. Be’s legal counsel for the lawsuit catches wind of this and uses this situation as further proof of how MS uses strongarm tactics to force competitors out of the marketplace. “See, your Honor, even when an opportunity such as this arises for viable alternatives to Windows to be offered, MS steps in and takes away consumers’ choice.” 2002-02-22 5:05 pm You say MS got a company shut down for selling pcs with no os? In Gods name how? What law were they breaking? 2002-02-22 5:09 pm Over here, it is illegal to use another comapny’s name or product’s name with your own without having the license/agreement of the company in question. I don’t know how it exactly went down, but i was told that they used microsoft windows in their description, explicitly infroming people that “microsoft windows” was not installed onto their systems or something like that. 2002-02-22 5:32 pm to handle microsoft’s lawyers. What if tomorrow Walmart decides to shift its supply chain management systems to open source ? Its POS ? The General services ? Since walmart decides what procter and gamble, pfizer, and many of its suppliers must have in order to remain suppliers, this could mean a HUGE LOSS for MSFT. Guess microsoft will NEVER bite Walmart. MSFT will just wait for the offer to come to an end, since the market for pcs without an os is very very tight. Small companies selling through the Net can do that, they’ll be safe from prosecution: it is not illegal to do that, and small OEM dont have very good contracts with MSFT anyway. It can be a niche market. 2002-02-22 5:34 pm Isn’t the article saying wallmart.com? so they wont be found in yor local store? The people buying them will be at least familier with a computer if their buying it online (but may be a gift?) ?? How much does a OEM pay for a licience on pre-installed??? P.S I alway build my own to what I can afford. 2002-02-22 5:35 pm In the article it states: “For example, on PCs that sell for $599 or less, Windows becomes one of the most expensive components in the mix. Linux, of course, can be obtained for free.” I think you can compare this to paying taxes. Most people have taxes taken out and don’t see that money, but small business owners pay a quarterly “estimated” tax, right out of their pockets. This makes them more determined to reduce their tax burden. Perhaps if people realize how much they are “really” paying for MS Windows, they will seek out more “reasonably priced” OS’s. Just a thought…. 2002-02-22 5:51 pm I’m not sure that the blanket statement of Wal-Mart shoppers can’t install linux is true right now, and it’s certainly not going to be always true. This could be a nice transistion for people who aren’t quite ready to build a DiY computer, but aren’t ready to deal with picking out the hardware. So what if they install windows or linux or whatever, I think it’s pretty cool that Wal-Mart thinks they can even explain to their customers that there is this thing called an Operating System and it isn’t ALWAYS windows. 2002-02-22 6:51 pm If Walmart worked out a deal with Palm and Gobe they could chuck in Linux (RH, Mandrake, or other easy installing distro) and BeOS disks with the deal. Shouldn’t cost much and would be a selling point. (New!!! Linux and BeOS free inside!!! Get started right away with your new <blah blah blah> computer!) Of course, all hardware would have to be alt OS compatible. As mentioned by others, tech support could get real interesting too. 2002-02-22 8:12 pm I doesn’t make any sense to do this at this time as the market is down and most people aren’t buying new machines – so any results will be woefully inaccurate. 2002-02-22 8:21 pm They say right on the website that these PC’s are for people who like other-than-windows OS’s, and then on the “more info” for some of the PC’s it doesn’t give you the mobo chipset/video/sound/modem (maybe one or two but never all). That is MAKE OR BREAK information for non-windows folks. It may work, but not if they don’t wake up. 2002-02-22 10:08 pm I might consider buying a laptop without a preinstalled OS. Not paying for the M$ overhead would be good. As for a regular PC, the tech oriented crowd won’t be buying this from WalMart. Although Walmart is a good place to buy inexpensive monitors while saving shipping cost! 2002-02-22 11:22 pm Sounds good to me! But when will target (heh, i only sometimes pronounce it with a french accent) get in on the act 2002-02-22 11:27 pm Although Walmart is a good place to buy inexpensive monitors while saving shipping cost! you gave me a great idea! wal mart should sell montier without OSes! wait… montiers don’t need OSes… wait… walmsrt is already doing that 2002-02-22 11:34 pm http://www.walmart.com/catalog/subcatalog.gsp?path=0%3A3944~*~@… PCs with no OS at walmart.com 2002-02-22 11:41 pm This is the low end AMD box for $399.00: AMD Duron 1.0 GHz processor 200MHz Frontside Bus 128MB 133MHz SDRAM Memory, supports up to 2GB 40GB Ultra ATA-100 Hard Drive / 5400RPM (total accessible capacity varies depending on operating environment) 52x CD-ROM 3.5″ Floppy Drive Integrated TRIDENT BLADE 2D/3D graphics Up to 8 MB shared video memory 3D Enhanced Sound, Integrated PCI 56K Modem Micro ATX Tower Case (7.06″ W x 14.7″ D x 13.8″ H) Total drive bays: External, two 5.25″, two 3.5″; Internal, one 3.5″ Available drive bays: External, one 5.25″, one 3.5″; Internal, one 3.5″ Available PCI Slots: 2 PCI, 1 ISA 1 High-speed serial port 1 Parallel port 2 USB ports 1 Game port 104 Key Keyboard 2 Button Mouse w/wheel Audio Port (Line-in, Line-out, Mic-in) 14 Watt (RMS) Stereo Speakers 1 Year warranty, return to Microtel Operating System – NOT INCLUDED This is the high-end AMD box for $499.00 AMD Athlon 1.4 GHz processor 266MHz Frontside Bus 256MB 133MHz SDRAM Memory, supports up to 1GB 40GB Ultra ATA-100 Hard Drive / 5400RPM (total accessible capacity varies depending on operating environment) 52X CDROM 3.5″ Floppy Drive Integrated S3 Savage4 3D graphics Up to 32 MB shared video memory Supports 2x, 4x AGP graphic add-in cards ADI AC97 soft audio, integrated PCI 56K Modem 250 Watt ATX Mid Tower Case (8″ W x 17″ D x 17″ H) Total drive bays: External, four 5.25″, two 3.5″; Internal, two 3.5″ Available drive bays: External, three 5.25″, one 3.5″; Internal, two 3.5″ Available Slots: 2 PCI, 1 ISA 2 Serial Ports 1 Parallel Port 2 USB Ports 1 Game Port 104 Key Keyboard 2 button mouse w/wheel Audio Port (Line-in, Line-out, Mic-in) 14 Watt (RMS) Stereo Speakers 1 Year warranty, return to Microtel Operating System – NOT INCLUDED 2002-02-22 11:45 pm Granted these PC’s have no OS, why doesn’t Be inc and Linux allow consumers the option of loading Be OS or Linux free of charge? 2002-02-22 11:47 pm The P4s specs differed slightly so you may want to check those out. 2002-02-23 2:59 am FWIW, Mandrake Linux is available at my local Wal-Mart. 2002-02-23 3:33 am You bee heavy hitter with blank-slate PC. Blank slate is the way to go now. 2002-02-23 11:58 am Mmm, these boxes (nice price btw) will be a hit with people who already have an old pc with a windows say 98 disc around and want something faster… It’s silly to pay twice for windows when you only run it once… 2002-02-23 3:32 pm Without “ANY” OS? Ummmm… can we say moronic? I could understand if they bought PC’s to sell with “ALTERNATIVE” OS’s, like a pre-installed Linux and BSD and QNX and whatever they could get their hands on (would’ve been smart if Wal Mart had the opportunity to purchase the desktop BeOS and use it… although what a Wal Mart would do with a Be Inc. outside of diversify and potentially p!55 money away is beyond me anyhow) but… ummm… no OS? Any “TECH” savvy person would go out, buy a motherboard, a processor, an ATX case with power supply, some RAM, a hard disk or 2, CD-ROM/DVD-ROM/DVD-RW/CD-RW, any extra parts and slap it all together. If this is a “PUSH” for techies… it’s a mistaken one. Half of Wal Mart’s and KMart’s products in-store are “CRAP” so what’s that going to tell me about their PC’s?!? Will I be buying one of these slap together jobs? Not anymore than I’d buy an Acer or old Packard Bell… If it’s a push for consumers… once again, it’s a major mistake (most consumers are illiterate… it’d be better if Wal Mart just bought 100,000 AOLTV units and sold them as that’s more in-line with what consumers want… even if it’s crappy and underdeveloped). I could see selling Linux PC’s with Gnome or KDE pre-installed, bundling it with a nice open-source Word Processing suite and selling it to customers as stable and reliable (if it’s a good build). Better yet, if I was a company as big as a Wal Mart, I’d see the potential of maybe ushering in it’s own “competitive” plan, while also making sure I tell the DOJ that I want to remain a reseller of brand-x Microsoft Windows clones so as to prevent Microsoft trying to “Tonya Harding” my kneecaps by cutting or anti-competitively crippling the plan in a DOJ-violating element. This way Wal Mart has something to fall back on, and in-turn can compete with a lower-cost Linux Box that they sell. They could also fund a team of developers to make Wal-Linux easy to re-install and perhaps even work with the Gnome or KDE projects to cater the user environment to end-users. Let’s face it… if you could buy a Linux box for $200 or so less than a regular PC, with some sort of internet access (perhaps Wal Mart works a deal with an Earthlink or gets AOL to release AOL for Linux) bundled and a word processor… do you think a typical user wouldn’t consider it if it was a cheaper alternative to buying a Dell? Especially considering that most of the open-source Office programs are better than MSWorks, and that with a decent internet package bundled in, you’d have 90% of what most users want. The problem is… once again… the GUI for end-users. Consumer’s don’t want CLI’s, they could care less about them. Yes they might empower the tech-savvy, but… this is marketing to consumers… most of which are lucky if they can figure out how to use an AOL (itself one of the most moronically simple software products designed, even if it’s underpinnings are pathetic… if AOL ever hired a decent programming staff, lemme tell you… they’d probably kick everyone’s 455). The problem is, they won’t do all of this! It’s so pathetic to read of half-4553d attempts to promote open competition when the people behind it are as illiterate about computers as the Federal Government was in allowing this whole ball of wax to escalate as it has. I mean, for the LOVE OF GOD will someone wake up and actually understand what’s logical and what’s elementally stupid?!? 2002-02-23 6:08 pm It’s silly to pay twice for windows when you only run it once… Some might say it is silly to pay for it once and use it at all. The way MS is going with XP, I’m beginning to think that way. I’m now searching for a good Linux laptop (a refurb is fine). Mac is too much $$. Notice that Wal-Mart does sell laptops, even a CHEAP KDS (256MB, 20GB) for about $980. Just wipe out XP and go! 2002-02-24 2:33 am what better way to expand beos and gobe than to offer it on these walmart pc’s? 2002-02-24 5:08 am This is obviously a strategy to strong-arm Microsoft into doing business on more favorable terms. If Microsoft doesn’t offer Wal-Mart more reasonable volume prices or whatever the issue is, then they will have to accept losses as people happily re-use Windows installation disks they already have, or even just use Windows copies owned by someone they know. The timing here was magnificent! How many of us are flat-out refusing to upgrade to XP because of the activation issue, or even to Win Me because we’re not convinced it’s an improvement? How many of us would already have bought a new pc if we could just stick our old familiar setup in it and go? And the fact that you can order pc’s without OS’s online already is completely irrelevant, because we’re talking about people that buy from department stores, not online. There’s the impulse buying factor too. Yesterday you saw a pc you couldn’t afford, today you can afford it because you already have a copy of your OS to put in it. Ultimately this will end with Wal-Mart discontinueing this practice in exchange for cheaper prices from Microsoft, but others will take up the slack. I’ve already seen a pc with Linux instead of Windows for $249 at Fry’s, but no monitor was pictured. 2002-02-24 5:56 am I think it’s a great idea. Consumer’s will finally be able to compare the price of a box with & without windows and see how much they are paying for what they are getting. A few other points. Installing an OS by a user takes much more time than the supplier because typically, the OS will be ghosted onto a computer from a master copy. Also, the supplier can make tweaks to fix the glitches associated with the hardware platform. This hopefully will get OS developers to get thier act together to make sure that such glitches don’t occur so often. Some niche market opportunities here. Alternatives to the regular OS installs – perhaps ghosted OS images from a CD. Also, a multi OS installer on a CD niche market. “Would you like your windows with or without fries sir?” I breath a sigh of relief too. One of the issues surrounding a commercial OS developer is how the heck do they get they customers to install the OS cleanly. This is a step in the right direction. A clean disk avoids the dreaded question you have to ask the customer about whehter they want to replace the current OS with your’s, especially the master boot record. Also, I wonder if it’s a unspoken comment by the suppliers with regard to MS wanting to force everyone to start using XP/2000. They’ve probably been gagged from saying much about it by their existing contracts and this is probably one of the few ways they can speak up about the issue. And for you techies, I am more trusting of buying a complete system put together by a supplier than trying to piece it together myself despite my having the necessary skills. It comes down to having the least amount of headaches in the shortest amount of time. And if I’m going to trash the OS with another, why should I pay for it in the first place. I really hope that the suppliers can make a difference to the market on this one. sadly, I think the time is coming when all OSes, even MS ones are going to be free or very low cost which may or may not be good for us. We’ve commoditized the internet – time to commoditize the OS market. P 2002-02-24 4:15 pm Well a user install of Win XP doesn’t take as long as it used too… Microsoft did a decent job this time in recognising all the hardware in a the box… too bad they insist in their silly registration scheme.